Strength Training Shows Promise For Elderly

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  5/30/2006 9:47:42 PM

News You Can Use For June 2006

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly emphasize the importance of physical activity to promote health, psychological well-being and a healthy body weight. To reduce chronic disease risk in adulthood, the guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual physical activity, most days of the week.

To manage body weight and prevent body weight gain, LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames recommends 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity. She says if you want to sustain weight loss, 60-90 minutes of physical activity most days of the week are necessary.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the agency that sets dietary recommendations, also added exercise recommendations to its dietary advice. The IOM recommendation doubled the surgeon general’s 1996 recommendation for moderate physical activity, from 1/2 to 1 hour daily.

One type of exercise, resistance or "strength" training, has been shown to be a safe and effective method of reversing muscle loss in the elderly. Muscle loss, called sarcopenia, starts around age 45, when muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent per year.

Recently reported findings from studies by scientists funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. showed that in a group of volunteers with osteoarthritis, a joint disease, muscle strength increased by 14 percent and balance improved by 55 percent after a 12-week strength-training program. Flexibility also improved by 17 percent, and pain, based on self reports, decreased by 30 percent.

Another report showed that in a group of volunteers with chronic kidney disease and on low-protein diets, total muscle fiber increased by 32 percent and muscle strength increased by 30 percent after 12 weeks of strength training. Those who did not exercise lost about 9 pounds, or 3 percent of their body weight.

This improved body strength, the opposite effect of normal aging, has a positive effect on activities of daily living. As participants reclaimed their muscles, they also regained their ability to climb stairs, clean house, grocery shop and do other activities.

Reames says strength training improves the five key components of physical fitness – muscle strength, muscle endurance, body composition, cardio-respiratory endurance and flexibility.

According to Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging researchers, strength training requires explicit skills and knowledge to perform. Instruction by a trained individual is important for strength training by older adults.

While older adults need strength training to maintain their muscle mass, the exercise also can help reduce the risk and symptoms of many chronic diseases, such as arthritis, coronary artery disease, diabetes, frailty, obesity and osteoporosis.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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